The Corporatorium--Episode Two

Welcome to the Inferno


Monday.

Stepping out of my car, feeling like a prisoner returning to incarceration after a weekend pass, I stared at the squat red-brick and brownstone monolith waiting to swallow me. Drawing a deep breath, I started to drag myself across the parking lot—a vast wasteland of BMWs, which were apparently the new Chevy (did they really hand them out to every 22-year-old college graduate along with a diploma?) 

Half way across the hectare of asphalt I realized I should have eaten breakfast or at least packed a lunch because my energy was fading fast and the building was still so far away. I stopped and leaned against a car that was parked between two BMWs. Shiny and black, it sported a vinyl “Landau” roof with what appeared to be a monogrammed “G” on the side. Realizing it was a hearse, I shuddered and hurried on.

Reaching the building’s entrance at last, sweaty, and exhausted, I struggled, as I did every day, to pull open one of the pair of massive, and wildly improbable, ornately carved bronze doors. The lobby’s brick vaulted ceiling made the entry feel less like an office building than the reception room of some demented Monsignor’s palace. Or, maybe, the anteroom to…hell.

The lobby was a blizzard of white marble tile and blazing lights. I was immediately hit with a blast of heat from the massive Rumford fireplace opposite the front door. The juxtaposition of the chilly marble, cool white lights and the furnace-like heat, was disorienting; seeing the devil, himself, lounging in one of the whimsically over-sized wing chairs surrounding the fireplace would have been no more startling. 

Bear skin rugs covered the marble floors, and the mounted heads of unhappy-looking animals hung from the walls. The air vibrated with the violence of a slaughterhouse. Keeping my head down so as not to see the animal heads, I stepped carefully around the bear corpses pretending to be rugs, and hurried to the elevator. The tiny slow-moving box, disconcertingly like an upright coffin, was lined in cowhide with the hair still attached.

The doors closed and the elevator began its crawl upstairs. To distract myself, and keep claustrophobia at bay, I thought about the scores of newly hired and uninitiated who trekked through that lobby and onto this elevator each year without realizing they were entering a firestorm of greed, confusion, and ego. 

Those who remained pure, stubbornly clinging to hope—which had left the premises eons before, never to be seen or heard from again—were incinerated to ash and later seen "temping" or making up cafĂ© mocha lattes at Starbucks.  Others, less pure, less human, baptized by the fire, were baked into a kind of corporate carapace, hard, impervious as Teflon. And as warm. You could easily recognize these Officers of The Corporation by the Audis they drove, and their suits of cinder and ash.


The doors opened, and I stumbled out of the elevator and stood in the hall that was carpeted in blood red wool, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dimness. Beneath the steady hum of fluorescent lighting there was…silence. The doors to the conference room on my left was closed, so I knew the officers were meeting. Sometimes—as I was doing now—if you listened outside the door of the officers' meetings, beneath the corporate-speak and buzzwords, you could just hear tiny human voices clamoring to be freed.

I heard a chair scraping against the stone floor and got out of there quick, for there’d be hell to pay if I was caught lurking near the officers’ domain. In addition to their own conference rooms, the Officers had their own bathrooms and kitchen. The refrigerator in their kitchen, which was stocked with company-paid water and soft drinks, had an engraved brass plate bolted to its sleek steel and glass door: ITEMS IN THIS REFRIGERATOR ARE FOR OFFICERS ONLY. The rebuke was as sharp as the slap of a ruler on a tender young palm.

The Corporation created a kind of artificial society, not unlike that found in any American High
School. There were three professional-social strata—the leadership team, officers, and at the bottom: non-officers, people like me, or as we’d named ourselves, the mushrooms. We chose the name because, like mushrooms, we were kept in the dark and fed shit.

Out of this darkness and shit, the grapevine grew, strong and resilient, as it has since time immemorial.  While the drums of yesterday sent their messages, couched in pulsing rhythms through the air, unintelligible unless you knew what to listen for, we sent our messages back and forth using the same air the officers breathed without so much as tickling an eardrum. Because we were sure email and instant messages were monitored, we employed a locked Twitter stream and Facebook and text messaging to communicate stealthily, but constantly, with each other.

The Corporation itself preferred communicating via web cast and Memorandums of Opportunity, otherwise known as MOOs. These MOOs generally detailed problems that needed fixing, though they often presented solutions to problems that did not exist, or which would only exist once the solution was implemented. At any rate while they were usually problem-related we were no longer allowed to use the word “problem,” or even “challenge” for these words led to negative thinking. Like the state in Orwell’s 1984, which had created “newspeak,” leadership was sure the route to happiness and a problem-free workforce was to simply eliminate all words related to dissatisfaction, unhappiness or problems. Thus all problems were now known as “opportunities.”

Anyway, back to the MOOs. These pointless missives came out almost daily and carried the signature of management though no one knew who the author or authors were. Today's MOO:

M E M O R A N D U M   O F   O P P OR T U N I T Y

We have been informed that our landlord, Evel Property Group, has a number of indoor parking spaces temporarily available because of tenants unexpectedly breaking their leases. These spaces are being offered to non-officers only, as officers have indoor parking under our building already. 

The available parking is located in a garage at the far end of our campus but will provide you with sheltered parking during inclement weather. As this garage is some distance from our building, you may want to pick up a copy of the Shuttle Bus schedule prior to requesting a space.

These spaces will be assigned on a first-come first-served basis, so email us your request as soon as possible, along with your car's make, model and license plate information.
As I finished reading this, Nigel sent the first tweet of the day.

Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
re: today's MOI: ROTFLMAO

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP
How was this helpful to anyone?

Prometheus Jones @Theus
Isn't that garage like in another county?

“Pssst!”

From my seated position I could see Barbara the second’s tiny, dark head with its moon face rise over her cubicle’s walls.

We all stood, our heads popping into the air prairie-dog style.

“What’s up?”

“Are any of you interested in that parking space?”

“Why?” Diana asked.

“Well, I’m thinking of applying—for Otto, you know.”

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP
Who’s Otto?

Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
Miss thing’s BMW.

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP 
She named her car?

Prometheus Jones @Theus
Yes. I’m sure she’d name her dick if she had one

Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
What makes you think she doesn’t have one?

I chuckled. Nigel was still smarting from an incident that had occurred early during Barbara the second’s tenure. Seeing her struggling with a heavy, awkwardly shaped box, Nigel had gone to assist her. “Hey, Theus,” he’d called, “Come help me—”

Barbara the second had shoved him away. “I don’t need your help!”

Bruised, Nigel had half-whispered, “I only thought we men could—”

“Could what? I can do anything a man can do,” she had barked, “Except stand up and pee!”

“Actually, I once knew a lesbian who could stand up and pee. She’d demonstrate at parties…”

Barbara had glared at me so I’d shut up.

“Hello?” Barbara the second said sharply. Guiltily we all three looked up from our phones.

“I want that space. I’m afraid Otto will fade being in the sun all day. And you know we paid extra for that color.”

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP
Paid extra? It’s blue—who’d pay extra for blue?

Besides Barbara Two continued, “I had to park next to a hearse this morning!”

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP
A hearse? Is she on crack?

Prometheus Jones @Theus
No, she’s not hallucinating—I saw it this morning on my way in.

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP
Why would there be a hearse in our parking lot?

Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
It’s mine.

Prometheus Jones @Theus
It’s yours?

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP
Nigel, why are you driving a hearse?

Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
Why not? This place has killed my soul. I’m quite dead inside. Besides I needed new car and it was cheap.

Diana Prince-King @TAFKAP
Where does one even buy a hearse?

Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
Craigslist

Barbara the second whined loudly, “Hello?”

“Oh! Sorry,” I said, “None of us are interested so go for it.”

“Great! Thanks!” Barbara the second sank out of sight.

Missed Episode 1? Read it here.

Episode 3: Wednesday, June 22

Copyright © 2016 Larry Benjamin

D I S C L A I M E R
The characters and events described in this blog post exist only in its pages and the author's imagination.

Feel free to comment on this story below, or connect with me on Twitter & Facebook.



Comments

  1. damn! Episode two was too short(she whined). Still lovin' it Larry!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lol. thanks. Episode 3 is next Wednesday.

      Delete
  2. Wow ~ when DID we work together??? Good stuff! Looking forward to the next installment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol. I get that a lot. I think there is a certain commonality of work experience in this series. Thanks for reading. BTW, 6 more episodes have been posted. You can access them in order from either episode 1 post or using the blog archive on the upper right.

      Delete

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